Last year I managed a rare trip to a gallery (a snatched moment between lockdowns!) primarily to see the fabulous Pansy – Roy Efrat and Catrin Webster’s collaborative exhibition in the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea. While there I was chuffed to spot an old piece of mine displayed in the Swansea Collection gallery.
This is a very old piece and very different from my more recent work. So much so that I have been pondering these differences in order to find the parallels and convergences as well as the more obvious divergences. The linkages are largely based on balance and tension. This early form, above, is finely balanced, a vessel poised to the point of creating tension through a sense of its precariousness. The geometry of the fine lines of inlaid stained clay reiterating that sense of a poised moment in time.
In contrast this more recent piece, made during my Masters course at UWTSD Swansea College of Art, eschews the clean lines of form and surface pattern and texture. It is no longer even a vessel, a container, in the traditional sense. But still there is that same wrestling with balance and tension, only now that poise is gone; the piece is actually beginning to tip and is in fact balancing, precariously, on warped and layered clay walls. The surface pattern and texture, created by imprinting the clay with plastic mesh, contains areas where the mesh is bunching up and areas of space where the mesh is stretched or torn echoing the warped and torn clay walls.
Back in October 2017 the MA began with a series of interconnected projects, the most significant being the Thought Experiment. We were each given an envelope at random containing a word or phrase followed by a short brief – the idea being we produced a presentation – video or performance – lasting exactly 6 minutes 40 seconds based upon this word or phrase. Mine was Return to your room after a journey.
My thoughts moved back in time to my childhood and tracing my index finger through the furrows of an old candlewick bedspread. I’ve always suffered with insomnia from infancy and this was something comforting I would do when I couldn’t sleep. I would trace a small journey from home to school for example, or to my grandparent’s home or a friend’s house perhaps. My finger making a path through the furrows of wicks, sometimes pulling a thread or two from the candlewick to create an opening, allowing me to cross a road or turn a corner in my journey.
I spent some time trying to arrive at a way of producing a presentation using a candlewick bedspread but struggled to find a way I felt comfortable with lasting 6 minutes 40 seconds. I went back to the brief and thought about how a room could be exactly the same yet not the same over time and arrived very quickly at spiders and their webs. At the same time thoughts of spiders spinning webs led quickly to stories, myths of Ariadne’s thread – a link back to my candlewick journeys – and how stories accumulate while travelling.
Coincidentally my daughter was teaching herself to spin wool; initially drop spindle spinning that resembles spiders dropping on their threads, and then on a spinning wheel. This is remarkably hypnotic to watch – calming and meditative, playing tricks with the passage of time – creating a sense of time slowing and a gathering, processing of memories, stories, anecdotes.
It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog post! In autumn 2017 I began an MA in Fine Art – Contemporary Dialogues at UWTSD Swansea. I wanted to do this particular course as I liked the crossover and openness between different practices.
This will be the start of some updates and as usual I’m doing things out of sync by starting with my final show before going back to the beginning, more or less, of the journey of the MA.
Most of my work has been based on time – both linear and cyclical, chance, narrative and materiality. My final show From Path to Poultice comprised an installation of raw clay, logs of wood and other natural materials and a video piece that was made over the space of a year. Path was a repetitive journey along the garden path to record the changes in smashed clay over a period of a year or more. The repetitive nature of the work became ritual and as time went on I made more ritualistic pieces such as Poultice in response to this.
Cross-current: – 1. a current in a river or sea flowing across another current. 2. a conflicting tendency moving counter to the usual trend.
These two pieces – Cross-currents and Sea Passage feel in some way separate from my other work despite all the elements having been used in earlier work. The specific mix of textured black clay and smooth white paper clay and use of impressed materials to create surface pattern and texture were used in pieces such as Thorn I and II. The sea motif and use of detritus from previous makings is apparent in Sea Change I and II and Sea Bite.
So perhaps it’s the ideas behind the work that were changing and that I have further developed in my most recent work, Faultlines, making these pivotal pieces, and that is why the name Cross-currents seems so apposite.
On a different note when I exhibit Cross-currents, unless it is very strongly spot lit I think I may need to provide a torch so the interior can be seen. I have included some interior views here and if you look closely at the third one you can see signs I have a little visitor!
My work can currently be seen at Kunsthuis in the annual ceramics exhibition ‘Shades of Clay’ which features 25 UK and international ceramicists. The exhibition runs until 24th December.
“Shades of Clay’ comprises a whole breadth of clay based work from potters/ceramicists using everything from traditional hand-building techniques to the latest new technologies creating 3D printed ceramics as well as wheel-based and slip cast wares.
Kunsthuis is the Contemporary Art Gallery in Dutch House, Crayke, near York and also features Gardens and a café – I can recommend the walks around the gardens and the café’s delicious coffee and brownies amongst many other things. Kunsthuis were finalists in the White Rose Awards 2016.
If you get the chance please do make the effort to go and see it. Kunsthuis also shows paintings, prints, sculpture, jewellery and other craft-based work. The Gallery, Gardens and Café are open from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday.
‘Longère’ is a paper-clay piece I made while working towards the Mission Gallery Maker in Focus exhibition ‘After the Firing’, but I felt it didn’t fit within that body of work and so it wasn’t exhibited. ‘Longère’ was prompted by memories of holidaying in France in my in-laws home when my children were young.
The handprints reference several aspects of our time there – the girls playing, painting and making in my mother-in law Jean’s studio, the fact that all the family had a hand in renovating the house, our visits to caves filled with art and hand prints.
‘Longère’ alludes to memory, dream, a sense of place and space, and to the passage of time. I thought about calling the piece ‘Dream House’ but this has other connotations that are not so apt. So ‘Longère’ or ‘Long House’ with its connotations of time and longing (in punning English anyway!) perfectly sums up my feelings of nostalgia for both the place and that time in my life.
Thorn l and Thorn ll are some of the final pieces I made towards the Maker in Focus exhibition at Mission Gallery. They are something of a return to the tree motif I initially envisaged as the major element within this body of work, before the sea took over.
I used cuttings from the dying hawthorn hedge in my garden (courtesy of a neighbour spraying brambles on their side!) and pressed them into the clay slabs while the clay was still relatively soft.
The forms appear largely urban/industrial but were also influenced by a thorn bush I came across some years ago that had been sculpted by the wind, and perhaps sheep and deer, into an almost perfect cuboid – just a few stray twigs straggled out of one top corner.
The use of white paper clay alludes to the lichens I found on many of the wind blown trees around the coast as well as on the old oak trees in my local park, Parc Coed Bach.
My latest work is now on display in the Mission Gallery’s Maker in Focus space until 3 April. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm. Some images of the work can be seen on the new portfolio page of my website. A big thank you to Amanda, Rhian and all at the Mission for all your help and advice.
This body of work was produced with the support of the Arts Council of Wales.
My exhibition for Maker in Focus at the Mission Gallery in Swansea is fast approaching and I’m running out of shelf space in my studio! I am having to do a number of firings in quick succession especially as I was held up earlier this week by Storm Imogen when the electricity kept cutting out.
I will be Maker in Focus from 23 February – 3 April.